Saturday, April 14th will make it exactly four years since 276 pupils of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, were kidnapped by Boko Haram as they prepared to sit for their West African Senior School Certificate Examinations.
In the wake of the kidnap, there were allegations and counter allegations about whether the girls were truly kidnapped or not. There were also claims that the number of kidnapped girls were not that high.
The cries for the release of the girls dogged the heels of the Goodluck Jonathan administration, and getting the girls released was one of the campaign promises of then APC presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari.
Reports suggested that Boko Haram was hoping to use the girls to negotiate the release of their commanders currently in jail.
In May 2016, one of the missing girls, Amina Ali, was found. She claimed that the remaining girls were still there, but that six had died.
A further 21 girls were freed in October 2016, while another was rescued the next month. Another was found in January 2017. Eighty-two more girls were freed in May 2017. One of the girls was rescued in January 2018.
While some of the girls have regained their freedom, there are still many of them in Boko Haram captivity. Of the girls who are in captivity, The PUNCH reported that the terrorist sect released a video earlier this year, where the girls purportedly said they would not come back.
The 20-minute long video was the first since May 2017 when another woman, who also claimed to be among the 219 seized from Chibok, said she wanted to stay with the abductors.
All of those who were shown on camera wore black or blue hijabs and at least three were carrying babies.
One of the alleged Chibok students, her face covered by a veil, said: “We are the Chibok girls that you cry for us to return to you. By the grace of Allah, we will not return to you.
“Poor souls, we pity our other Chibok girls who chose to return to Nigeria. Allah blessed you and brought you to the caliphate for you to worship your creator. But instead, you chose to return to unbelief.”
The last two videos will most likely compound the suffering of the girls’ families and friends but also indicated the extent to which they might have been brainwashed by their captors.
Since the girls’ kidnap in 2014, groups have come up clamouring for the release of the girls. At the forefront of one of the groups is the Bring Back Our Girls campaign group, spearheaded by former Education Minister, Oby Ezekwesili, Aisha Yesufu, Bukky Shonibare, Ayo Obe and others.
The group holds vigils for the girls in Lagos and Abuja regularly to remind the government of the need to rescue the remaining girls.
Last year, the group organised its inaugural annual Chibok Girls Lecture, which was delivered by His Highness, Muhammad Sanusi II, Sarkin Kano, represented by his daughter Shahida.
This year, this group is holding the second annual lecture, titled, “Towards a Just and Good Society: Renewing Our Commitment to the Girl Child in Nigeria,” to be delivered by Pastor Tunde Bakare.
The lecture, scheduled to hold in Abuja on Saturday, 14th April, 2018, will be chaired by Hajiya Naja’atu Bala Muhammad.
According to her Wikipedia entry, Naja’tu Bala Muhammad is a Nigerian politician and the first woman to win a Senate seat in Kano State (Kano Senatorial Seat in Central District).
She is also one of the first women to have served as president of the National Students Union Nigeria in the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; and also the first female vice-president of the National Association of Nigerian Students
The group has taken to Twitter to remind President Muhammadu Buhari of his campaign promise to secure the freedom of the girls and to sensitize the public to the still missing girls.